Democrat governor's pay raises to Cabinet members draw scrutiny

When Democrat Roy Cooper was elected governor of North Carolina in November 2016, his victory was seen as a kind of consolation prize after the party lost the White House.

But now Cooper, after barely a year in office, is facing scrutiny over some hefty pay raises handed out to his Cabinet secretaries.

In fact, each Cabinet member now draws a higher salary than Cooper's $144,349 per year, the Raleigh News & Observer reported.

“Cabinet secretaries take on tremendous responsibilities providing services to a state of more than 10 million people, and it’s important to minimize turnover and encourage continued leadership in our state agencies,” a spokesperson for Cooper said. “Governor Cooper will also keep pushing for fairer salaries for all state employees.”

According to figures first reported by WBTV-TV in Charlotte, raises for Cooper's Cabinet appointees ranged from $13,000 to $22,000, despite none of them having been on the job for a full year. Their salaries now range from $145,000 to $217,980, the News & Observer reported.

The biggest raise -- 11 percent -- went to Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon, bringing his salary to almost $218,000. Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen saw her salary rise 22 percent last July 1. She's now paid $192,500 annually, the media outlets reported.

State law sets Cooper's salary, but he ultimately decides on Cabinet pay.

When Cooper hired his team last year, he gave all but one of them salaries that were identical to what his Republican predecessor, Gov. Pat McCrory, paid his Cabinet members.

But Cooper justified the raises, stating that his Cabinet was the most diverse in state history and that the average Cabinet member had 22 years of experience.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.